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On the picket line

April 22, 2005 | Pages 10 and 11

Illinois home child-care workers
Puget Consumers Coop Natural Markets

Wisconsin state workers
By Eric Robson, AFSCME Local 171

MADISON, Wis.--AFSCME Council 24 began a campaign in April to put up a fight against Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign to make state workers pay for Wisconsin's budget deficit by eliminating 10,000 of the 38,000 state workers.

After 21 months without a contract, Council 24 held emergency meetings of all of its nearly 60 locals on April 4. Members voted at those meetings overwhelmingly to "support their bargaining teams." Now Council 24 is preparing to bus in workers from around the state for an April 21 rally here at the state capitol that will bring together members of Councils 24, 40 and 48 to call for an end to the attacks on all Wisconsin public employees.

As the scale of the assault has become too massive to ignore, AFSCME Council 24 has begun to slowly mobilize its members.

Rank-and-file activists from many Madison-area locals of both AFSCME and the American Federation of Teachers have come together to organize further actions. Taking the name of an earlier opposition caucus in Council 24, the State Employees Action Coalition plans to meet at 6 p.m. on May 3 on the University of Wisconsin campus to plan out next steps.

With our unions under attack, we can only move forward if we get organized and fight back.

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Illinois home child-care workers

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.--Some 49,000 home child-care workers will be eligible to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) following a union representation vote last month. Of the 16,756 workers who voted, 13,484 voted to join the SEIU, with the rest opting for AFSCME, the leading public-sector union that withdrew from the vote after the AFL-CIO awarded jurisdiction to the SEIU.

The vote is the culmination of a nearly decade-long organizing drive that was given a boost when Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich agreed to back legislation allowing the workers bargaining rights. That move was payback to the SEIU for backing Blagojevich in the Democratic primaries of 2002 and the general election. The vote is also the largest single organizing drive since 74,000 home health-care workers in Los Angeles voted for SEIU representation in a similar political deal in 1999.

The union expects to quickly win increases in miserably low pay, which can net as low as $3 per hour after expenses. However, the legislation does not make the home child-care workers traditional state employees, which means that they won't be eligible for medical coverage and pensions. And given that the Blagojevich administration is taking a hard line in negotiations for other state workers and proposing to cut pensions, hard bargaining lies ahead.

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Puget Consumers Coop Natural Markets
By Brooke Weney, UFCW Local 1105

SEATTLE--Workers at Puget Consumers Coop (PCC) Natural Markets sent a message to employers to get back to the negotiating table when they voted down management's last, best and final offer on March 29.

Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1105 voted down the contract 174 to 62, with 50 percent of workers from seven stores turning out for the vote. The employers' offer included an increased percentage of deli helpers, who make lower wages than employees who are "on scale," and asked employees to shoulder more health care costs.

At a recent union meeting, local president Sharon McCann commented on the show of support coworkers gave their shop stewards, who saw the need to file a NLRB charge for unfair labor practices and harassment in December.

Management was so confident that it would win the vote, they offered workers rides to the vote. As one worker noted, "They [the managers] must have felt their propaganda would work." They were wrong. Workers are determined to continue their fight for a fair contract at PCC.

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